Creepozoids (1987)

Wow, this was bad. And not just compared to normal, big-budget action-horror movies; even compared to the sort of garbage we normally cover at the ISCFC, this stinks. It’s yet another effort from Full Moon Pictures, who we’ve covered repeatedly over the last five-and-a-bit years, and their house director David DeCoteau, who achieved internet notoriety a few years ago when the trailer for “A Talking Cat?!” was noticed by a few big comedy websites.

Looking back over DeCoteau’s oeuvre, I…well, like most other people who write about this stuff, I’ve been accused of being a wannabe director. Not particularly, honestly, but if I was offered the career he’s had, I’d definitely have turned it down. Would I want to be known as the man who made “The Brotherhood”, the “1313” series, “The Great Halloween Puppy Adventure” and a bunch of movies with “Christmas” in the title that are so bad Hallmark Channel wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot barge pole?

I could go on (“please don’t”, I hear you cry) but let’s discuss “Creepozoids”. We’re in the post-apocalyptic situation of 1998, although the only evidence of this comes in the text info-dump right at the beginning. Humans most dodge gangs of mutants, apparently, and while it might have been fun to see some humans fighting some mutants, DeCoteau isn’t here to entertain! What we see is a few empty streets and a very small amount of the acid rain that’s a constant companion of the nuclear future. Five soldiers – among them “legendary” scream queen Linnea Quigley and Kim McCamy – desert from the army, although I thought society had fallen apart, and try and eke out a living.

ASIDE: As every other review of this movie has mentioned, McKamy, under the name Ashlyn Gere, would go on to a long career in porn, winning a number of awards while still doing bits of mainstream acting (she’d appear in a few episodes of “The X Files”, for instance). Evidently, there are people who watch porn the same way I watch old horror movies, as there’s a lot of interest in this because it was filmed before McKamy had breast implants. I feel vaguely sleazy just from knowing that information, but there you go. McKamy actually refused to go nude for this movie (good for her) but Quigley obliged, because you can’t have a B-movie without exploiting at least one woman.

The series of ideas they ripped off become apparent around now. There’s “Mad Max”, “Dawn Of The Dead”, a little “Day Of The Dead”, “It’s Alive” and “Alien”, and not a lot you could call original. But again, original isn’t that interesting to Full Moon; although, if you look at the computer diary one of the characters finds, it appears computer game “Fallout 3” might have lifted a little of their aesthetic.

The five of them find refuge in an oddly unguarded, well-stocked scientific base, and they discover that the experiments within related to…er…something to do with making it so humans don’t need to eat any more. Perhaps they ought to have aimed for nuclear weapons that don’t leave the planet an irradiated dump after you use them, but I’m no science-guy so what do I know? Anyway, the scientists inside all died, and there are some giant monsters, the creepozoids of the title (I presume, it’s never really mentioned. Plus, they don’t creep because they’re enormous).

For a movie which clocks in at 72 minutes with a lot of credits, it’s almost unbearably slow. If I wanted to see five unappealing actors stood around for an hour, I’d stop writing reviews of B-movies and see a doctor; and you can add to that the criticism that the women in “Creepozoids” do basically nothing. While the men go off and sacrifice themselves bravely, the women stay behind and wring their hands! This happens over and over again and is just stupid.

Talking of stupid, that’s the illness most of the cast dies of. At about minute 50, you discover they’ve had lazer pistols this entire time (!) and just haven’t bothered using them – add that to the “let’s keep going down this dark corridor no-one returns from” sort of behaviour and you’ll spend a good portion of the time, well, the time you’re not just sat bored and wishing you’d picked something else, shouting at the screen.

It’s just lazy and stupid, top to bottom. I’m mostly annoyed that this cobbled-together bit of z-grade garbage was considered worth making or releasing. There’s no development of the post-apocalyptic idea at all, there’s no drama, barely any action and some of the special effects (the giant rat, particularly) would be embarrassing if they were done by a group of broke school students. There are no supporting cast members, at all (the only person other than the main five in the entire thing is the base’s chief scientist, credited as “Woman” and on screen for two minutes at the beginning – she dies in a stupid way too) and nothing worth looking at.

I’m just looking at the VHS cover to this now. “Shake with terror – at the birth of the creepozoid baby!” I mean, if it had been released in the 1950s, that line would still have sounded cheesy, but even though it looks sort of gross for a minute, it’s just another monster that gets killed then mysteriously revives just before the credits roll (thank heavens they never made a sequel).

Wow, Full Moon wasted a lot of good will in the 80s and 90s.

Rating: thumbs down

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Youtube Film Club: Dreamaniac (1986)

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After “I’ve Been Watching You”, because I’m a glutton for punishment and because I hope you – dear reader – enjoy reading about bad movies more than good ones, I decided to really get into the filmography of David DeCoteau. You might be flicking through the listings of your streaming service of choice one night, happen upon DeCoteau, and come to me for advice (metaphorically speaking, but if you know me, feel free to just give me a call and ask).

We’ve talked about him before, and mentioned his career arc – by the way, did you know he directed the recent meme-bait “A Talking Cat?!?” – so feel free to read our old reviews. Click these words right here to go to a list of our DeCoteau writing! Or carry on reading, right now, to find out about his first ever non-porn directing job. Yes, after “Boys Just Wanna Have Sex” and “Never Big Enough” (sorry, I do love a good porno title), he was offered his first directing job by Charles Band and his pre-Full Moon “Empire Pictures”.

 

From the opening credits on, this reminded me of a slightly sanitised version of early Donald Farmer – the B-movie horror legend who gave us “Demon Queen”, “Cannibal Hookers” and “Vampire Cop”, among many many others. Exhibit A is the opening credits, which go on for about 5 minutes (of an 80 minute movie), and just list the cast and crew, pausing for an excruciating length of time on each one. I love a good “get it to feature length by any means necessary!” trick.

 

Adam (Thomas Bern, in his only ever role) is a professional heavy metal lyric writer (huh?), although he has a poster for punk musician Jello Biafra on his wall, and the t-shirt he wears at the beginning is of Def Leppard, not exactly the most metal-y of bands (the soundtrack has nothing approaching metal on it, either, presumably the whole thing was due to some satanic music panic being in the news the week they made it). He’s having trouble sleeping, dreaming of a woman in a bathtub full of blood, but he does have a lovely and supportive girlfriend, Pat (Kim McKamy).

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McKamy has the drill

ASIDE: As every other review of this movie has mentioned, McKamy, under the name Ashlyn Gere, would go on to a long career in porn, winning a number of awards while still doing bits of mainstream acting (she’d appear in a few episodes of “The X Files”, for instance). Evidently, there are people who watch porn the same way I watch old horror movies, as there’s a lot of interest in this because it was filmed before McKamy had breast implants. I feel vaguely sleazy just from knowing that information, but there you go – in case you were wondering DeCoteau, even at the beginning of his career, was far more interested in the male form than the female.

 

Back to Adam! He summons a demon quite easily, needing nothing but a few candles and a book of incantations, and it’s the same woman he’s been dreaming about, named Lily (Sylvia Summers). I guess there’s a religious thing here, with Adam and Lily / Lilith (Lilith being the name of Adam’s first wife in some very early Jewish texts), but if it is, it’s completely undeveloped. Now this is where the extremely poor sound quality of the VHS rip on Youtube become annoying, because according to the promotional literature, Lilith gives him irresistibility to women, on the proviso she can kill them afterwards, but this doesn’t make the slightest sense when it comes to what actually happens. In fact, I’ve really got no idea why Adam summoned her at all – he seemed to have a decent life, with a big house and a beautiful girlfriend? He is a very very dull character, though, a wet blanket much like the star of “I’ve Been Watching You”, so I’m glad the movie doesn’t focus too much on him.

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What the movie does focus on is the party that is thrown in his house, because Pat’s sister Jodi needs to get into a sorority and decides a sparsely-attended party in the home of a virtual stranger is a good idea, and because this movie was shot in 10 days and it’s a lot easier to film entirely in one location. So we get an assortment of characters – the bitchy sorority leader Frances (Cynthia Crass); the gay guy; and the…undistinguished mass of humanity! I’m seriously struggling to remember any of them, and it was only on a few hours ago. The way it goes is, we see a bit of a party, then Lily murders someone in an escalatingly gruesome fashion; then we get either a view of a naked male ass, or a shot from the front of a chap in very tight white underwear. It’s good to know his interests were front-and-centre (so to speak) from the very beginning, and it makes a refreshing change from most horror cinema.

 

There’s sort of a subtext here, and it’s unhappiness. No-one is happy – the women are all unsatisfied with their men, Adam is just miserable, Jodi seems disgusted at the world she wants to be part of and just gets drunk all the time, in fact the only people who seem remotely satisfied with their lot are the camp guy whose name I don’t remember and Lily herself, and she gets to murder tons of people for no reason whatsoever.

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I almost forgot that a few people come back as zombies later on (another thing it has in common with early Donald Farmer), seemingly picked at random and easily dispatched back to death. And someone gets their head removed with a drill, which is pretty impressive when you think about it. Or stupid, I can’t decide which – okay, it’s stupid. It’s quite nice to see such an unvarnished set of slasher film responses to situations, with pre-marital sex all over the place and cast members having an almost pathological desire to wander off on their own and get killed.

 

There’s one good thread to “Dreamaniac”, the interaction between Jodi and Adam. They don’t spend a ton of time on screen together, but when they do there’s an easy rapport and the nugget of a half-decent film. But that’s literally it when it comes to stuff I enjoyed.

 

First up, it’s called “Dreamaniac”. The first and only dream sequence in the movie is done with by the five minute mark! Best I can guess is, the cover talks about “A Nightmare On Elm Street” and they knew they needed at least one dream sequence to not be sued for false advertising? Talking of the box, there’s the caption “too gory for the silver screen!” on there, indicating its proud straight-to-video status (back when that was pretty unusual), or perhaps they just misspelled “rubbish”. Then, finally, there’s Adam’s motivation. What does he get out of the deal with the demon? She has sex with him a few times, but after that all she does is murder a bunch of people in his house.

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SPOILERS AHOY! No excuse, really, the video is right there at the top of the page to watch. It turns out the entire movie was…a pulp novel that a guy played by the same actor as Adam had written! We see him finishing reading it out to someone over the phone. Screw you, movie! That this other Adam then gets killed by the same demon, the implication being he summoned it with the stuff in the book, is the garbage cherry on the dirt pie.

 

“Dreamaniac” is relentlessly awful. Made solely for the purpose of wringing a few $$$ out of video shop customers, with not a thought given for its quality (although I guess it’s sort of impressive that they made this for an estimated $60,000) or coherence, it’s to be avoided at all costs and I’m now regretting starting down this path. None of the bravura oddness of Donald Farmer, but all the flaws and then some.

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Rating: thumbs down

I’ve Been Watching You (2001)

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It’s a fond welcome back for David DeCoteau, one of the more enduring low-budget genre directors out there. Starting off in male-based adult entertainment, he was hired by Roger Corman, then worked for Full Moon for many years, and now produces his own movies. We’ve been covering him since “Sorority Babes In The Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama”;  he also did three of the “Puppet Master” sequels and has, to date, directed 127 movies. He’s a “shrewd” businessman, too, and has named a bunch of entirely unrelated movies “1313” (so “1313: Bigfoot Island” and “1313: Frankenqueen”, for example) solely so they’d show up near the beginning of Netflix searches. I’m not sure you can say “shirtless guys with shaved chests doing normal activities, plus there’s usually an 80s Scream Queen in there somewhere” makes a long-running series worth naming, but one must admire the man’s chutzpah.

“Boxer brief horror” is the term coined to describe the genre DeCoteau works inside. While he does movies with women in the lead roles, he’s up there with Albert Pyun and Ed Wood as a director who’s perfectly happy to make his sexual interests the centrepiece of his work. Pyun – body-building ladies; Wood – angora sweaters / transvestitism; DeCoteau – shirtless, hairless young men. A casual glance through his filmography will reveal dozens and dozens of DVD covers which look roughly identical – between 3 and 5 bare-chested young men, all looking very serious, always photographed as if they were in a semi-circle, almost always white; occasionally a token woman in there; heavy image processing, and a looming figure in the background (either a pair of eyes or a spooky house, usually) – and if you ever spent any time in a video shop in the early years of the new millennium, you’ll definitely have seen some of his stuff.

(In fact, if you have any favourites from this particular era with a similar cover, we’ll do a review series of video shop classics)

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“I’ve Been Watching You” is nominally set around the world of fraternity hazing. After seeing a pledge killed by a shadowy group, we jump right into the “action”, and meet two new students, Dan and Chris. Dan is the wet blanket nerdy type, and Chris is the jock hero (he’s got a swimming scholarship). Their introductory conversation is absolutely crazy, and a perfect summation of what’s to come. There’s negative chemistry between them, and in place of banter they do a weirdly serious fake out – like Chris will threaten to beat Dan to death, leaving an awkward pause before saying “I’m joking!” – this happens five times or so during the course of things. There’s sort of a tension there, as Chris isn’t into joining groups like fraternities, and Dan wishes he was able to join them.

The plot does get going quite quickly, which is good. Chris, while biking round campus, meets the beautiful Megan and for seemingly no reason at all, she, Chris and Dan become close friends…over the course of a day. Their conversations are beyond stilted, to the extent I’m not sure if the writer or any of the actors had heard human beings speak before. What’s perhaps most surprising is, rather than exciting horror stuff, a significant portion of the action is these young people discussing their intense feelings…when, bear in mind, they’ve known each other for a day. Megan is genuinely amazing, one of the weirdest, most charisma-free performances I’ve ever seen – that actor Elizabeth Bruderman was only in one other movie is terribly sad (if you love un-acting).

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As the camera ogles Chris, stretching after a long shirtless run, we see the guys of the evil Doma Tau Omega frat. They’re obviously the bad guys, even if the movie doesn’t tell us right away – partly because they’re dressed like lunatics (one of them is wearing a PVC shirt) – and their head is Devon, a performance of brain-buggering badness from Bradley Stryker (who must have improved, as this was his first movie and he’s still working regularly in high-level products today). He says “he’s beautiful” about Chris, and while it’s difficult to argue with him, it’s still quite a curious line; we find out later his interest in Chris isn’t the normal “wow, that guy is hot” interest,but…shall I spoil it? Ah, what the hell…he’s a centuries-old vampire, and his deal is, every hundred years he has to find a new body to inhabit, and the body in question must be already corrupted. So, Chris is sucked into Devon’s orbit, and it sort of develops from there. The three amigos go to a Doma Tau Omega party, and Chris immediately ditches his two friends to go and hang out with Devon, where he gets him drunk and then indulges in a bit of mild mutual blood-drinking. This leads to one of the many genuinely puzzling scenes in the movie.

There’s the faintest whisper of chemistry between Megan and Dan, and you think they might get together. She says “let’s go get coffee”, but rather than go and sit in a nice brightly lit coffee shop, clearly because no businesses would allow them to film, so they up sitting on a park bench in almost complete darkness (this can be compared to Chris and Devon’s scene, one of the most obvious day-for-night shots in cinema history). Dan, who – again – has known Chris for maybe two days at this point, spends the entire conversation talking about his new friend rather than the hot woman who’s doing something flirting-adjacent with him. Anyway, all he gets is a peck on the cheek, at least partly because I’m not convinced DeCoteau has got any idea how men and women actually talk to or interact with each other. Dan is such a massive wet blanket.

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Part of the reason Devon is doing what he does is because he wants to stay in college forever. A better movie would show how pathetic such a view would be (one gets the feeling the characters from “Twilight” are tired of having to move round and keep attending different high schools), but at least Dan eventually takes matters into his own hands, breaking into the frat and discovering their not-terribly-secret book with the details of how they’ve been around for centuries. While he’s doing this, Chris is most of the way towards accepting his vampire lifestyle, including drinking the blood of a very willing woman at a party. But even this scene is incredibly homoerotic – as Devon guides Chris, the camera angle makes it look like nothing more than he’s giving him head, and it’s all about the two underwear-clad male asses on display.

Anyway, there’s a twist which you’ll be able to spot from almost the first minute of the movie, more shockingly awful acting than you can shake a stick at, more alien-written dialogue, and plenty of very cheaply-shot scenes. You might reasonably expect me to say “avoid like the plague” and just drop that Thumbs Down, but there’s more to “I’ve Been Watching You” than meets the eye.

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Well, more and less, let’s say that. It’s undoubtedly awful, a vampire movie where there’s ten times more wooden teen angst than there is vampires, where its sole reason for existence seems to be so the director could hang out with people he wanted to have sex with, but its awfulness is compelling. I wasn’t bored by it for a second, even though by any sensible analysis I should have run a mile. It’s honestly a little refreshing to have the movie not be interested in scantily-clad women at all, even if I’d rather have had some plot than the tight focus on mostly naked twinks that I got. If “Mystery Science Theater 3000” could’ve got the rights to it, it’d have made a perfect riffing opportunity for them, with lots of spaces for jokes and a weird sort of energy so everything bounces along.

So, thanks David DeCoteau, and also a minor thanks to shot-on-VHS legend J.R. Bookwalter (“Zombie Cop”) who was editor on this. And, because it wouldn’t be an ISCFC movie without it, let’s talk unusual numbering. There’s an “I’ve Been Watching You 2” (subtitled “Prom Night”, which is the reason I started down this road) but it has nothing to do with part 1, being a buy-in for the global distributors, actually made three years before this one and a comedy, apparently. In the USA, this is known as “The Brotherhood”, and to date there are 6 movies in the “Brotherhood” series, all directed by DeCoteau, all nothing to do with the rest of the series, all shirtless, all the time.

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A bad movie gem, and definitely worth putting on the list for your next movie night.

Rating: thumbs up

Sorority Babes In The Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)

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This is perhaps the Troma-est movie ever released by a company other than Troma. Directed by David DeCoteau (some of the Puppet Masters, Full Moon regular), it was originally called “The Imp”, but was given what sounds like a very typical Troma title. But I need you to brace yourselves, sit down in a comfy chair, or otherwise prepare for momentous information.

The title actually makes sense! There are babes, they’re from a sorority, the majority of the movie takes place in a bowling alley and there are plenty of slimeballs! I was as surprised as you, I guarantee it. Full Moon, continuity-phobic as they are, at least make sure their titles sort of roughly describe the movie.

They also could never be accused of rushing the plot. There’s a leisurely first half hour, which involves a group of horny college-esque guys breaking into a sorority house to watch the initiation of two new pledges. There’s an extremely long spanking scene near the beginning, which could have been interesting (one of them discovers she’s into it, or really hates it) but it’s just…there. Anyway, for some reason they’re sent to the local bowling alley to steal a trophy, along with the boys, who were caught because their plan was stupid.

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One of the bowling trophies contains a magic gremlin of some sort, who claims to want to grant wishes, but actually is much more like the Wishmaster than he is a classic genie. He’s a bit of a jive-talking fellow, and almost immediately decides he wants to kill the group who’ve broken into the bowling alley, and locks up the building with his magic genie powers, setting the scene for some murdering and so on.

I’m making this sound better than it is. David DeCoteau, an out gay man, seems like he was trying to hide that fact here, as the boys stay fully clothed and the women disrobe almost constantly. There’s a shower scene in that tedious first half-hour where there’s full frontal female nudity for what feels like forever…it’s a movie of curious choices, none of them particularly interesting.

This film has a peculiarly high number of positive reviews, most of them mentioning Linnea Quigley. She’s known as one of the “scream queens” of the VHS b-movie era, and has the sort of devoted fanbase that indicates she spends a lot of time at conventions being nice to people; but the sheer quantity of folks who adore her and her co-stars Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer indicates that I’ve still not scratched the surface of this world. Or that they’re all very easily pleased, because I would struggle to tell the three of them apart from any three other random 80s horror actresses.

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Aside from the title, it does have a lot of that standard Full Moon feel to it. There’s plenty of humour (although it’s not particularly funny, you can at least tell they’re trying), lots of nudity, and a love of horror tropes (this movie seems to be a bit inspired by “The Monkey’s Paw”). It’s certainly got a lot of fans from its repeated broadcasts on USA Channel’s “Up All Night” strand of programming back in the 80s and 90s, people who love its cheesiness and poor quality effects – if you’re in a forgiving mood and really, really like softcore nudity, you’ll at least have an okay time with this one. But there’s so much better movies to choose from, even if you’re specifically in the mood for a cheesy 80s horror comedy – the also-Quigley-starring “Return of the Living Dead”, for one. But I think a lot of the fond memories tied to this movie come from it being on really late at night and viewers being tired, or drunk, or both, or from people who slept through the first half-hour.

Rating: thumbs in the middle